Pic crew coalition pushes work limits

Long hours could be standard in pre-strike times

A coalition of below-the-line crew members reported a solid response after asking producers to schedule no more than 12 hours of work Friday in memory of Brent Hershman, who died in a 1997 car crash after working a 19-hour day on “Pleasantville.”

The coalition, whose members include many from the “Pleasantville” crew, also requested that the industry dedicate the weekend as a “safe, work-free” period to be spent with family and friends.

Still a problem

“The reason we’re asking for this observance is that overly long days are still very much of a problem,” said Bruce McCleery, a gaffer who worked with Hershman, a camera assistant, on the set of “Pleasantville” in Long Beach, Calif. “There’s greater responsibility among production companies about the problem, but there’s been no noticeable reduction in scheduling long days.”

The effort to limit overtime was launched four years ago after members of the pic’s crew circulated a petition calling for a 14-hour limit to workdays.

The idea drew support from a variety of industry quarters, including unions, producers of “Pleasantville” and cinematographer Haskell Wexler, but efforts to incorporate the limit into basic contracts fell short.

Gaining acceptance

Norm Glasser, a business rep for Local 728 of Film Editors of the Intl. Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, said producers and directors have become more responsive to the problem in recent years. “Long days tend to be more of an issue for older crew,” he added. “Younger people don’t mind as much.”

Producers have contended that long days are unavoidable for movies, TV shoots and ads because of tight deadlines and the heavy cost of locations and equipment rentals.

McCleery noted that the pressure to keep shooting has been intense this year due to accelerated production as studios and nets stockpile for possible strikes by writers and actors.

Strike worries

George Spiro Dibie, prexy of the Intl. Cinematographers Guild Local 600, said: “Local 600 is pleased that more and more producers are offering crew members motel rooms after long workdays on local locations. However, as important as this issue is, right now our members are more worried about losing their houses and their health benefits should the Screen Actors Guild and/or the Writers Guild of America strike.”

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